Metea Valley girls soccer players reunite on the field for the first time since childhood

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The Metea Valley girls soccer team has demonstrated remarkable progress over the past several seasons. In 2022, the Mustangs not only clinched their 9th regional title, but they also celebrated their first-ever sectional title and the 3A State championship. In 2023, the journey ended in the sectional final as the Mustangs said goodbye to a senior class that secured over 50 wins over the past three seasons. This spring, there is plenty of leadership returning from seniors like Kyliegh Jannisch, Cydnie Bayless, Lucy Burk, and goalkeeper Alyssa Gluting. This spring, the black and gold also has the support of underclassmen who have nearly a decade-long connection with teamwork and hope to return Metea to the state series.

“We played together when we were younger and had that bond. We kind of lost it during middle school, but it’s great to have it back,” said Metea Valley junior forward Lily Senese. 

New juniors looking to lead the charge

Juniors Lily Senese, Isabelle Leofanti, and Olivia Hernandez have reunited on the soccer pitch for the first time since they played together during youth days from 2nd to 4th grade. After that stretch, the four split up to their respective club teams. Junior Chloe Birch, another member of the squad, has been sidelined this spring due to a meniscus tear. Despite her inability to play, she remains a strong supporter of her teammates and enjoys being back with her childhood friends. 

“Being back with them even though I’m not playing is such a fun experience being with the team. I’m really excited for next year, and it’s really motivating me to recover quickly and get back with them because I missed them,” said Metea Valley junior Chloe Birch.

The four have remained friends off the pitch but were unsure if they were ever going to play together on the high school level. 

“I knew that we were all going to the same middle school, so I knew we were going to be close to each other. However, I didn’t know that we were going to end up playing again together. But honestly, it’s great that we are because our bond is back,” said Senese. 

State experience right away

Leofanti and Herandez were on the varsity team as freshmen and were able to enjoy that State championship experience. Hernandez competed at the club level during her sophomore campaign but is now back in a black and gold uniform, while Birch is still waiting for her time to shine for the Mustangs after spending her freshman and sophomore years playing club as well. Thanks to that longtime bond on and off the pitch, they know the chemistry will be pivotal if Metea Valley girls soccer is going to make another deep post-season run. 

“We’ve been super close since the beginning, and I think it’s just that our bonds became a lot closer as we went through school together. That goes for having classes together and playing soccer together. That just kind of creates our bond and makes it a lot stronger than it was before,” said Metea Valley junior forward Isabelle Leofanti. 

“We would be really close on the field, but we’re also hanging out a lot out of the field, like we had to hang out at Lilly’s house a lot and just like have sleepovers and stuff that made us really close,” said Metea Valley junior Olivia Hernandez. 

“It feels better to know that we’re going to get a lot of playing time because last year was rough, like having to compete with one another. This year, it’s a lot better knowing that we can combine and have to show the skills that we had when we were younger, and now we can show them here,” said Senese. 

Teammates with bright futures

As they stay together for two more seasons and a hopeful return for Birch for their senior campaign, three of them have verbally committed to play soccer at the collegiate level. Leofanti will take her talents to Kent State, while Hernandez will be suiting up for Marquette, and Senese will be heading up to Northern Michigan. While they’re excited to continue their soccer career since their youth, their main mission is to capture another state title for the Mustang program. Metea Valley girls soccer is off to a strong start with a 4-0 record, winning the Wheaton North tournament with one of those victories against last season’s 2A state runner-up Benet Academy. With a strong bond and experienced veterans back for another season, there is no doubt that the Mustangs will have a chance to be one of the strongest teams in Illinois once again.

“Adding in more players we’ve become closer with over the past couple of weeks, I could see us going much farther and doing great things. So I’m really excited to see where we go, and we’re not done yet,” said Leofanti. 

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